The Sketch: I should have made a Rock bid... I could do with an extra £20m

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The Independent Online

The Commons suddenly looked quite vulnerable, with a particular set of people walking in and out. Members fatter, frailer and older than the general population. Walking more carefully. Arms held out for balance. Every portrait's a self-portrait, and I'm trying to develop a more positive vision but it's not as easy as it used to be. At any rate the MPs didn't look like the owners of a bank with £100bn worth of mortgages.

The timetable motion drew some pretty good speeches from Philip Hammond, Richard Shepherd and Gwyneth Dunwoody. The haste with which the Bill to nationalise Northern Rock was put through was "truly dreadful", "spurious", and after five months of delay without any emergency to justify it, "melodramatic". Mr Darling made a speech on which it was very hard to concentrate. He repeated his conviction, honestly held no doubt, that everything he had done, was doing, will do was right and that Tories were stupid. When he sat down, the House woke up a little.

Osbo asked a series of penetrating questions without a hint of abuse or vitriol. I must work out how that's done. It was well worth listening to. At their best, both he and Cameron have a liveliness about them which the Government, bent under the cares of office I suppose, can't match. It is a relief to hear something new being said, something that hasn't been crafted by copy-monkeys in the back passages. I'm surprised they're not doing better in the polls.

Anyway, we were being asked, he said, to double the taxpayer's exposure to £110bn and buy a bank. But it was amazing how little we'd been told. How much it was going to cost, for one thing. Or what it was we were buying. What were the levels of bad debt, bad loans, pension fund deficit? The private-sector bidders knew, but the public-sector owners weren't allowed to. The shares are clearly worthless, but maybe those hedge-fund shareholders would persuade a judge they were owed £2bn. Maybe, as Edward Leigh suggested, the Virgin offer would be used in court to substantiate something significant. Then there are the litigation fees, and the £100m we taxpayers have to pay the bidders for the favour of their interest.

That really raises the blood pressure. What a racket it has become, in the modern upper class. We should have got the sketch-writers together to make a bid. Some of us could do with an extra £20m, because everyone else is getting their share, and nursing care certainly isn't getting any cheaper...

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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